Watson was developed by a team of IBM scientists who set out to accomplish a grand aspiration—build a computing system that rivals a human’s ability to answer questions posed in natural language with speed, accuracy and confidence.
This week’s Jeopardy! match featuring IBM’s Watson (see the figure) ushers in a whole new era in helping people and businesses manage and make sense of massive amounts of information through advanced analytics. Looking beyond Jeopardy!, Watson’s ability to understand the meaning and context of human language, and rapidly process information to find precise answers to complex questions, holds enormous potential to transform how computers can help people accomplish tasks in business and their personal lives.
For example, in the electronics industry Watson could be used in a number of ways to ultimately help manufacturers create innovative products and services and streamline business operations. It could also facilitate electronics manufacturers’ ability to have a greater connection and collaboration with consumers—enhancing brand loyalty while also providing a feedback mechanism into product development and post-sales services.
In today’s increasingly interconnected environment, every electronic device, whether it lives in an office, a living room, a car, or a factory floor, is part of a broader ecosystem, an “Internet of Things.” Consequently, makers of previously unrelated electronic devices will need to break down barriers and develop products that can communicate with each other, and they will need to find ways to eliminate the inherent complexity of all this for consumers. In the future, Watson-like technology could be applied to help the electronics industry with these complexities, including possibilities for:
• Watson’s Role as “Device Advisor”: With its “Deep Q&A” skills and ability to decipher the nuances of natural language, Watson can take on the role of the “Device Advisor” in the midst of the Internet of Things, acting as a universal help button for consumers looking to figure out how to best use, connect, and experience smarter products and services. Imagine in the not-too-distant future that you need help synchronizing all the devices in your “smart home” to the embedded sensors in your car. Or, suppose that your smart phone falls on the ground and breaks. Should you replace it, go for an upgrade, or switch vendors entirely? What are the ramifications to the rest of your connected systems? Watson can help.
• Watson’s Role as “Design Advisor": As a Design Advisor, Watson could be tapped to synthesize information from both the Internet of Things and the Internet of People and provide feedback on consumers’ wants/desires/issues to electronics manufacturers. Imagine a manufacturer having instant access to consumer usage patterns, service related issues, and data on how various devices are interacting with each other, and at the same time be able to instantly analyze consumer sentiment—what people are saying about the devices—via the entire social mediasphere, including blogs, online reviews, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. Imagine your product engineers having natural language access to your complete portfolio of patents and other intellectual property as they design new and enhanced products. This will enable manufacturers and design engineers to constantly revamp product designs in real time to stay on track, or even ahead of, consumers’ wants and needs. And getting this right will go a long way toward increasing brand loyalty and retention.
• Watson’s Role as a “Service Advisor”: Imagine your company’s technical documentation, along with all of your problem resolution records, being ingested into Watson to provide your service technicians access to up-to-the-minute knowledge of how to maintain complex electronic products. Think about the implications in the self-service environment for a product user who can ask, via voice or text, complex service questions and get instant options, without navigating a call center menu or tying up your technicians.
Watson’s Jeopardy! challenge marks the debut of this amazing new technology, and represents the first step in how computers will be designed differently and will be able to learn. Watson has ushered in the era of “Big Data,” and given the current data explosion happening around us, although it is only a first step, it is a huge one that holds enormous potential.